Prosecutors reject claim Jewish center shooter was insane

Naveed Haq is accused of killing one woman and wounding five at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle two years ago.

Naveed Haq 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Naveed Haq 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The man accused of shooting up the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle two years ago, killing one woman and wounding five, was not insane but had a deliberate plan to make a blood-soaked political point, a prosecutor said as the man's trial began. Naveed Haq, 32, a Pakistani-American born in the United States, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murder and attempted murder in the July 2006 attack, during which he walked through the Jewish center's downtown Seattle office, ranting against Israel and the Iraq war as he fired, hitting some people at their cubicles and killing Pamela Waechter as she fled down a stairwell. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutor Erin Ehlert told jurors in her opening statement Monday that Haq's careful preparation belied his insanity claim. Haq, who is Muslim, made four trips to gun shops in the weeks beforehand and used the Internet to map the 227-mile trip from his parents' home in Pasco, Washington, to the center. "He thought about what he did. He planned what he did," Ehlert told the jurors. Even when a police officer stopped him for a traffic violation minutes before the shooting, he and the officer had "a normal conversation in a normal tone of voice," she said. But John Carpenter, one of Haq's attorneys, called the shootings "the acts of a madman," and said they came "not from a darkened heart, but from a diseased mind." Carpenter said the defense would present volumes of mental health files, showing Haq's bipolar, schizophrenic and psychotic tendencies. He had grandiose thoughts, heard voices from inanimate objects, and suffered paranoid delusions, and Carpenter said those mental health problems turned Haq from a promising student - the only person in his high school class to get into an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania - into someone who couldn't hold down an hourly wage job. If nothing else, the notion that Haq thought he could reverse the course of US foreign policy showed his irrationality, Carpenter said: "He actually thought his actions were going to have a positive societal effect. This is insanity." One expert retained by Haq's lawyers is expected to testify that Haq met the legal definition of insanity: That he could not appreciate the quality of his actions and did not know right from wrong at the time of the shooting. Norm Maleng, the late King County prosecutor, decided not to seek the death penalty because of Haq's long history of mental illness. Carpenter blamed some of Haq's troubles, including suicidal thoughts, on a psychiatrist's decision to take him off the mood stabilizing drug lithium because of hand tremors. The other drugs did not work as well and triggered homicidal impulses and uncontrollable anger, including road-rage incidents and a bar fight, he said. Carpenter also said that for a year before the Jewish Federation shooting, Haq repeatedly asked a counselor for help controlling his anger, and he even called a crisis hotline requesting a one-week inpatient placement at a treatment facility. That never happened. Ehlert played two telephone calls to emergency response centers for the jurors: one by Kelsey Burkum, then 14, who was meeting her aunt at the building when Haq pointed his gun at her and told her to buzz him in. When they reached the second-floor office, she hid in a bathroom and phoned for help. Jurors and spectators wept as they listened to her frantic breathing. The other call was made by Dayna Klein, a federation worker who was pregnant at the time. Her arm shattered by a bullet, she dialed an emergency phone center, told an operator that Haq was pointing a gun at her, and handed him the phone. "I'm Naveed Haq," he said. "I want these Jews to get out." "I don't care if I die," he continued. "This is just to make a point." Soon afterward, Haq concluded that his point had been made. "I'll give myself up," he said. He walked outside with his hands on his head.